IB students inspire action at Alpine Elementary

Last month, nearly 80 fifth graders filled hallways and classrooms across Alpine Elementary with poster boards, slideshows and presentations encouraging worldwide change.

During the school’s International Baccalaureate Exhibition on Feb. 22, students put what they learned throughout their years at Alpine to use teaching visitors about some of the planet’s biggest challenges and inspiring action.

This year’s theme, Sharing the Planet, prompted projects on animal rights, deforestation, homelessness, pollution, human rights and equality in relation to sports, immigration and cyber bullying.

The students determined the central idea of the exhibition as “empathy promotes change,” said International Baccalaureate Coordinator Carolyn Clifford, which directed their work.

The projects are a capstone of sorts -- a culmination of the lessons students learned through the school’s International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program, which begins in Pre-K. Lessons focus on six transdisciplinary themes including who we are, where we are in place and time, how we express ourselves, how the world works, how we organize ourselves and sharing the planet. The themes are carried throughout curriculums and focus on science and social studies with the aim of creating internationally-minded students.

“The exhibition is focused more on process than on product, requiring students to collaborate, ask and answer questions, and take action,” Alpine Principal Amber Marsolek said.

Fifth graders worked in groups of two to six for about six weeks with a community mentor assigned to each team for support. Mentors, which range from parents to staff and community members, offer guidance in research and technology, but the projects are completely student driven, Clifford said.

“One of our IB attitudes is independence,” Clifford said. “The mentors are there to help but the students are driving these projects all the way.”

Alpine fifth grader Carly Roberts said her group studied endangered animals and presented a slideshow about dying species.

“My favorite was the Addax,” Carly said. “It looks like a gazelle but it’s actually an antelope.”

There are only about 200 Addax remaining because of poaching and disease, Carly said. The group hung fliers around the school and collected donations to support animal protection funds.

Carly said working with her teammates was the biggest challenge, but they each had an opportunity to pitch their ideas and vote on which ones were best.

“It made me really want to help them when I learned that the numbers were so small,” Carly said. “I hope it made a difference.”

Other students filmed newcasts, built museum-style displays and others gave formal presentations to visitors about their topics.

Self management, collaboration, research skills and fact versus opinion are just a few of the lessons students put to work in their groups this year.

“The IB exhibition is a celebration of learning, a culmination of what fifth graders have learned as IB students,” Marsolek said. “The exhibition truly challenges our students and makes them dig deep into their skill set. It's an experience that students remember well past their time at Alpine.”